Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting

by | Apr 16, 2024

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:   

1. Board receives presentation on Safe Camp and Karma Box: Karma Box Founder, and operator of Safe Camp, Grant Denton presented an overview of the services provided by Karma Box and its relationship with Washoe County and the operation of Safe Camp, a 50-unit sanctioned camping program on the Nevada Cares Campus. Denton outlined the programs offered at the low-barrier shelter as a housing-first model with a focus on permanent housing. Methods to increase preparedness for life off the streets that are presented at the campus include life skills training, behavioral therapies, and mindfulness-based stress reduction practices, in partnership with programs including addiction support groups, workforce development partners, and landlord communication on behalf of guests.

Denton hailed the reduction of recidivism into homelessness over the past three years of the programs, from a 60 percent rate in 2021, to a 20 percent return to homelessness in 2023. “The reason we could do that is because we identified that we are not just in the sheltering business, we are in the people-growing business,” said Denton. He continued, “We start with shelter, a bed and a meal, and work our way up to permanent housing.”

2. Board hears status report on recommended budget for next fiscal year: County Manager Eric Brown and Budget Manager Lori Cooke presented a status report on the budget for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins July 1. The estimated appropriations are just over $1.1 billion for existing contractual obligations, supplies, utilities, personnel costs, capital improvements and operations, maintaining the County’s assets and infrastructure needs, and operating budget requests.

This is the Board’s second look at the upcoming fiscal year, as they received a briefing on the financial outlook for FY25 and beyond in February. The February overview included a review of the General Fund’s financial results for Fiscal Year 2023, a Mid-Year 2024 review, and economic, revenue and expenditure trends, Board of County Commissioner strategic goals, known cost increases, unquantified/ outstanding cost impacts, and a general outlook for Fiscal Year 2025 and Budget.

The budget is built upon the Board of County Commissioners’ Strategic Plan and priorities set in October 2023, which focused on serving seniors, mental health, and capital improvement projects and infrastructure.

The County Manager will return to the Board with a Tentative and Final Budget on May 21, 2024, at which time they will hold a public hearing to adopt the budget.

3. Board approves Language Access Plan and policy: HR Manager Elizabeth Jourdin provided to the Board Washoe County’s Language Access Plan (LAP), policy and roadmap to the Board for approval, per AB266, a new Nevada law passed in 2023.

The proposed LAP, policy and initiative roadmap lay out a three-year implementation strategy to bring Washoe County into compliance with AB266 to meet the needs of Washoe County residents with limited English proficiency. Highlights of the policy include:

  • Planning Commission agendas and associated public notices to be posted in every language in which voting materials are printed in Washoe County, in this case: English and Spanish; 
  • Good-faith efforts to provide certified translators and interpreters for County programs and services and to translate vital documents;
  • Designate a Language Access Coordinator responsible for overseeing and implementing the language access plan for Washoe County;
  • Conduct an inventory of language services within the county government, including translation, interpretation, bilingual staff, language hotlines, and other resources;
  • Determine the most critical signage needs in departments and begin implementation where appropriate;
  • Foster partnerships with community organizations, language service providers, and other stakeholders to enhance language access.

The HR Department estimates a cost of $57,000 this fiscal year for planning commission public notice and agenda translation, initial translation of department documents and a technology pilot for live interpretation/translation in departments and at public meetings. This cost is covered by an American Rescue Plan Act equity grant that was awarded to the Human Resources Department in December 2022.

The cost for next fiscal year to bring the county into compliance with the law per the LAP is estimated around $355,000.

4. Board approves contingency fund transfer of $1.2 million: Transfers from the General Fund Contingency account allow departments to increase spending under certain circumstances while remaining compliant with state statute. The Board approved $1.2 million from the General Fund Contingency to the budgets for Conflict Counsel and the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender. The transfer will primarily cover increased costs for court-appointed attorneys, while just over $45,000 will go to expert witness fees for the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender.

Approval of these transfers will leave just over $4.2 million available in FY24 General Fund Contingency.

5. Board recognizes National County Government Month and National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week: Commissioner Clara Andriola read a proclamation naming April National County Government Month in recognition of the 24 county departments and nearly 3,000 county employees who serve the more than 500,000 residents of Washoe County. Receiving the proclamation on behalf of Washoe County employees were the longest-tenured employee, Joseph Peroddy, with 44 years of service, and the County’s two newest employees, Guillermo Alonso and Marie Bradshaw, both with just weeks of service.

Board Chair Alexis Hill read a proclamation honoring the Communications Specialists who “are the lifeblood of information for more than 500 public safety personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing a critical safety service to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Police Department, Pyramid Lake Tribal Police, Pyramid Lake Fire Rescue/EMS, United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police, the Washoe County Department of Alternative Sentencing, and back up services REMSA Health, and after-hour services for the Washoe County School District Police Department.” The proclamation named April 14-20, 2024, as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

6. Animal Services receives donations from SPCA and Girl Scouts: The Board approved donations of money and items to Washoe County Regional Animal Services for food and care for animals:

  • Girl Scouts Troop #376 and the Nevada Woodchucks built a donation drop box with an estimated value of $300 or use at the Animal Services facility.
  • SPCA donated animal food and other items with an estimated value of just under $18,000.
  • Numerous citizens donated animal food and various goods with an estimated value of $3,200.

7. Board approves the return of Dragon Lights to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park: Dragon Lights is a Chinese lantern festival that has been held at Rancho San Rafael’s May Arboretum and Botanical Garden in 2018, 2022, and 2023, with the most recent festival garnering nearly 94,000 visitors and earning roughly $215,000 for the venue. The Board approved an agreement with Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., to hold the festival September 27 through November 30, 2024, with possible renewals for 2025 and 2026.

8. Sierra Nevada Journeys receives $35,000 grant from District Special Funds: Commissioner Mariluz Garcia allocated $35,000 of the District 3 Special Fund to Sierra Nevada Journeys for the purpose of supporting the STEM education of 700 children. Sierra Nevada Journeys is the premier outdoor science education nonprofit serving Northern Nevada and California.

9. Numerous nonprofit organizations receive District Special Fund donations from Commissioner Jeanne Herman: Commissioner Jeanne Herman allocated $35,000 of the District 5 Special Funds to various nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies, including $10,000 to Palomino Valley General Improvement District (PVGID) for the purpose of improving and maintaining the roads managed by the organization, $7,500 to the Lifestyle Homes Foundation for the purpose of supporting food and clothing at the Cold Springs Family Center, $7,500 to Washoe County Human Services for the purpose of supporting the Men’s Crossroads program, $5,000 to the Veterans Guest House to support its mission of providing U.S. military service veterans and their families with caring support during times of medical need, $2,500 to the Adopt-A-Vet Dental Program to provide free critical and life-saving dental care to impoverished veterans in Nevada, and $2,500 to the Veterans Upward Bound Program at Truckee Meadows Community College for the purpose of supporting educational and career success for U.S. military veterans.

10. Board appoints members to volunteer committees: Planning Commissioner Rob Pierce was appointed to the Regional Transportation Commission’s Regional Road Impact Fee Technical Advisory Committee (RRIF TAC) to fill the vacancy left by former Planning Commissioner Larry Chesney. Pierce’s term on the RRIF TAC will run concurrently with his term on the Planning Commission.

The Board reappointed three members to the Washoe County, Nevada Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund Board of Trustees: Cindy Vance, Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District chief fiscal officer; Christine Vuletich, retiree, and Cathy Hill, Washoe County fiscal officer as “employee of the Employer who manages the fiscal affairs of the Employer.

The OPEB Trust is a legally separate entity from Washoe County for the exclusive purpose of providing funds to pay for the post-retirement benefits provided by the employee welfare benefit plans maintained by the County.